Visit the Church of Episkopi in Santorini

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Santorini is a unique and beautiful island that is definitely worth a visit. There is so much to do here, that it can be hard to choose. Whether walking the streets, enjoying the views, shopping, or enjoying the culture, you will find that your days are full here. With so much to offer, it’s hard to know where to start exploring. The Church of Episkopi is a must-see site on this island.

About the Church of Episkopi

The Church of Episkopi is the oldest church on the island of Santorini. It was founded in the 11th century by Emperor Alexios I Comnenos in the Mesa Gonia area at the foot of Profitis Ilias Mountain. It is a former bishop’s church from the Middle Byzantine period. The Church of Episkopi is dedicated to Virgin Mary.

The Church of Episkopi is a four-columned church with a dome with paintings on the interior walls that are well-preserved. There are also wooden, carved iconostasis that are decorated in the mastic wax technique. Some of the icons were stolen in the 1980s in an unsolved theft. One icon you can see is a beautiful 12th century icon called Panagia Glykofilousa, which means “sweetly kissing Madonna.”

There are a couple legends about why the church was built in the 11th century. One of these legends says that an icon of Panagia would move from its location on the hillside chapel close by only to appear somewhere else. The locals took this as a sign to built a new church for the icon.

The recorded history of the Church of Episkopi begins in 1207 when Santorini became dominated by the Republic of Venice Dushy of Archipelago. The Venetians expelled the Orthodox bishop from the island of Santorini and a Latin successor took his place. Adjacent to the Orthodox altar, in the Church of Episkopi, a Catholic altar was built as well. In 1537, the island of Santorini was overtaken by the Ottoman Empire. An Orthodox bishop would come to Santorini to accept his episcopal seat, but the Catholics did not accept this. There was a dispute until 1614, when the church’s land would be shared and both denominations would hold services in the Church of Episkopi.

Visit the Church of Episkopi in Santorini

This 11th century Byzantine church is a historical monument you won’t want to miss when in Santorini. The Church of Episkopi is a small, but interesting site. The location of the church is a pretty and serene spot at the foot of the mountain. Inside the church you can admire the well-preserved frescoes on different sections of the ceiling. The light coming through the stained glass window is lovely to see. Outside the church there is an old animal watering trough that is engraved. You can visit this church on your own or go with a tour group that makes various stops at interesting and important sites. In the area of the Church of Episkopi you will find places to enjoy a drink or meal.

Once on the island of Santorini you can get to the Mesa Gonia Village, where the Church of Episkopi is located, by car or bus. You can even arrange a taxi or minibus to pick you up at your hotel.

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